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REVIEW OF J. I. PACKER'S "A PASSION FOR FAITHFULNESS: (NEHEMIAH)

09/22/2018

LEARNING TO LEAD FROM NEHEMIAH

In 1995, Dr Jim Packer published his exposition of the book of Nehemiah, titled A PASSION FOR FAITHFULNESS; Crossway Books. He says in the Prologue that he has preached and taught on this book more than any other book of the Bible. At collegiate and church conferences, at faculty retreats and leadership summits he has opened this book for God’s people believing it has so much to teach us today if we will listen. And he confesses early on that Nehemiah has helped him personally over the years in a variety of leadership situations—more than any other person except the Lord Jesus Christ! High praise indeed.

He ably defends this Old Testament leader’s example. He credits Nehemiah with being the most important man in the Old Testament in establishing the nation of Israel after the great Moses. I think he backs up his claims with more good lessons. Packer takes two tacks: how Nehemiah led the people and how the Lord led Nehemiah. He argues that Nehemiah is a churchman and in our day when the parachurch seems to have the money and manpower, he shows how wrong-headed such a non-church emphasis is.

Packer shows us Nehemiah’s strengths and supposed weaknesses. (Reader take note: not everything people do not like about leaders is wrong. Often the critics are wrong. They do not know what the leader knows. They do not have the obligations to faithfulness a biblical leader has.) Nehemiah’s strengths include zeal (what it is and is not), commitment (to persevere and finish a God-appointed task), and practical wisdom (the ability to make reasonable plans and get things done).

And Packer reveals to us the deep relationship that Nehemiah had with his God and how that worked itself out in his prayers. And his mental understanding of God is rich: (1) God is the sovereign, transcendent, self-sustaining, eternal Creator of heaven and earth; (2) God is Yahweh, the LORD, the covenant-making, covenant keeping, promise-fulfilling God of Israel; and (3) God’s words are true and trustworthy and the basis of our confidence. What form did his godliness take? (1) Nehemiah’s life was saturated with prayer. His public life was an outflow of his personal walk with God. (2) Nehemiah was one in solidarity with the Jewish nation—God’s people were his people. And (3) he had a sobriety about the powers entrusted to him. Power and its sometime synonym, authority, is the right to use force to compel obedience.

The chapter, CALLED TO SERVE, is a penetrating insight into what a calling from God involves and how one recognizes it. Men wondering about if they are called to the ministry ought to meditate upon this section. Clear about his call, Nehemiah proceeded with a confidence that was and is contagious.

Forty years ago, Dr. Howard Hendricks gave some lectures on leadership that have proved pivotal for my own understanding of how to occupy a position of leadership in God’s kingdom. Fundamentally, leadership has two components: (1) convictions—you know where you are to go; and (2) you can get others to walk with you and work with you. Like two wings of an airplane, you cannot have one without another. Take either away and the airplane or mission for God will crash. Packer’s exposition of Nehemiah has two chapters on how to manage people—getting going and keeping going. Nehemiah’s convictions flowed out of his relationship with God; Nehemiah’s relationships flowed out of his learning to lead men.

The chapter on “Tested for Destruction” is profoundly insightful in showing how spiritual attack comes with the territory of leadership and how a leader is to meet it head on. Packer says that “testing for destruction” is Satan’s everyday work. Nehemiah chapter 4 shows Satan doing all he can to bring a work of God to an inglorious end. He uses psychological warfare, physical threats and personal discouragement. Having failed there, Satan attacks Nehemiah directly in chapters 5-6: incrimination, intrigue, innuendo and intimidation. And Nehemiah perseveres by the grace of God and succeeds at what God called him to do.

I could readily say more but do not want to spoil the great things there are to learn in this most helpful study of a man of God and his work for God. I have read it and pondered it for almost 25 years and I am still learning from Nehemiah. If you read and study Nehemiah with Dr. Packer, you will too!

Pastors, take your officers through this book, take your wife through this book and prayerfully make this book part of the ballast of your life and ministry.

Posted: 05:04:59 PM :: permalink :: discuss ::


REVIEW OF T. J. CRAWFORD'S THE MYSTERIES OF CHRISTIANITY

06/26/2018

REVIEW OF T. J. CRAWFORD’S THE MYSTERIES OF CHRISTIANITY (Revealed Truths Expounded and Defended); Banner of Truth; 329 pages; hardback

Thomas John Crawford was a leading conservative pastor and theologian in 19th century Scotland. In 1874 he delivered the Baird Lectures and they were thought to be so helpful that they were published the same year. Crawford was anxious to address the rising tide
of unbelief in clerical garb—ministers who took their office but did not believe the supernatural truths or origin of classical Christianity. This book is comprised of eleven lectures on truths under attack and held up as irrational, superstitious or worse. That such doctrines
originated with God Himself was the fundamental denial of the revisionists.

Here are the lectures and what each seeks to address:

LECTURE 1—DOCTRINES WHICH ARE MYSTERIOUS
FROM LACK OF INTERNAL EVIDENCE

LECTURE 2—DOCTRINES WHICH ARE MYSTERIOUS
FROM THE TRANSCENDENT NATURE
OF THEIR SUBJECTS

LECTURE 3—DOCTRINES WHICH ARE MYSTERIOUS FROM THE LIMITED EXTENT OF THEIR
DISCLOSURES

LECTURE 4—DOCTRINES WHICH ARE MYSTERIOUS
FROM THEIR APPARENT INCONSISTENCY
WITH OTHER DOCTRINES

LECTURE 5—MYSTERY ARISING FROM THE INADEQUACY
OF HUMAN LANGUAGE TO EXPRESS
REVEALED TRUTH
--MYSTERY ARISING FROM THE INCAPACITY
OF FALLEN MEN TO DISCERN SPIRITUAL
THINGS

LECTURE 6—THE DOCTRINE OF THE TRINITY

LECTURE 7--THE UNION AND DIVINE NATURE IN THE
PERSON OF CHRIST

LECTURE 8—THE DOCTRINE OF THE ATONEMENT

LECTURE 9—THE WORK OF THE HOLY SPIRIT

LECTURE 10—THE PURPOSES OF GOD—THE DOCTRINE
STATED

LECTURE 11—THE PURPOSES OF GOD—THE DOCTRINE
VINDICATED

This book is a rarity—a profound book of theology working in apologetic ways. Professor Crawford was showing the biblical basis of Christianity as not something dreamed up by man but a religion of divine origin, not available to us except by divine revelation and illumination.

As Sinclair Ferguson tells us in the Introduction, this book will make us think and think hard about the supernatural nature and origin of Christianity and its teachings. As the back cover shows Deuteronomy 29:29 —“The secret things belong to God but the things
revealed belong to us and our children forever….”

Steve Martin (pastor in Atlanta for 31 years)
Dean of Students; IRBS Theological Seminary in Texas

Posted: 04:01:28 PM :: permalink :: discuss ::


REVIEW OF JOHN OWEN'S DUTIES OF CHRISTIAN FELLOWSHIP

REVIEW OF JOHN OWEN'S, DUTIES OF CHRISTIAN
FELLOWSHIP (A Manuel for Church Members);
Banner of Truth; 2017; 95 pages; paperback

By common consent, there was no greater Puritan theologian/pastor than John Owen. His 16 volumes of theology; his 7 volumes of close commentary on Hebrews and his one volume biblical theology are all magisterial—great, profound, comprehensive, biblical, etc. etc

Those who have tried to read Owen’s 17th century Latinized English knows it can be tough going.

Banner of Truth has done us great service by excerpting this material from volume 13 of his theological works, modernized, editing and adding study questions. In other words, here is Owen for 21st century church officers and laymen who read theology. Particularly this is Owen’s rich material on how the gospel should shape the way church members relate to their pastors and to one another.

If it was in my power, I would ask all church officers and especially all elders to read and master this book. I would use it as the basis of a Sunday School class on how the local church members are to function in fellowship with one another and their pastor.

Steve Martin (31 years a pastor in Atlanta)
Dean of Students; IRBS Theological Seminary in Texas

Posted: 03:12:56 PM :: permalink :: discuss ::


REVIEW OF IAIN MURRAY'S THE LIFE OF MARTYN LLOYD-JONES

REVIEW OF THE LIFE OF MARTYN LLOYD-JONES
By Iain Murray; BANNER OF TRUTH; 2013; 475 pages; paperback

This is the only book, besides the Bible, that I have read 12 times! Why, you say, would I want to do that?

Well, in 1984 as a young pastor I was given this book in its original format (2 volumes in hardback) for my edification and growth. Coming out of broad
Evangelicalism into seeing the so-called ‘doctrines of grace’, I still clung to the idea that men who knew God deeply and preached with power were long gone. Where were the men God was using and where were the men who knew God deeply?

Various types of contemporary theology tempted me to disregard the godly heritage of men whom God used since the Protestant Reformation. But seminary with its accompanying temptations to spiritual aridity prompted me to read the life of George Whitefield. I found an 18th century man who knew God deeply and preached with incredible power his whole life (from age 24 until he died at age 56). I read of 19th century giant Charles Spurgeon and saw another great man of God. But I was not convinced that men of God of a Reformed persuasion were being used by God in the 20th century.

After all, I was a 20th century parachurch whiz and we saw results. We were pragmatists. Whatever worked was right! Then I read of the life and ministry of Martyn Lloyd-Jones and I saw my foolish heart revealed. Dr. Lloyd-Jones (hereafter MLJ) left a prominent and promising medical practice in London to become the pastor of a church plant in a small town in Wales—with a 40% unemployment. The usual suspects—drunkenness, prostitution and gambling—were rife. The town was
solidly blue collar—coal miners, longshoremen and steel workers. MLJ wanted to go to a place where was no sociological reason for interest in the gospel other than the fact that God honored the preaching of the gospel of His Son.

He preached evangelistic sermons unlike so-called evangelistic sermons in America today.He reasoned with his hearers from the Scriptures, showing them the pride and foolishness of man’s solutions to his problems and the answers only found in Christ and His gospel. He saw
the first convert six months into his ministry and some two years later a mini-revival took place that shook the community and from which the ripples went out across Wales.

With students and fellow pastors I have demanded that they prayerfully read chapters 4-11. They the heart of the material covering MLJ’s pastorate in Wales. Church historian Carl Trueman said that all young pastors needed to read this material to truly grasp what they
should be about. Chapter 4 covers his conversion from an assumed Christianity to a real and living Christianity. Chapter 5 covers his call to the ministry while a doctor working for the famous Lord Horder, Doctor to the Queen of England. Isn’t a minister just a man with the gift of gab who can work up a message for Sunday and return to his regular job on Monday? Chapter 7 is a different kind of preaching. Most ministers preached to their people as if they were all converted and doing well. As a medical doctor, MLJ helped them diagnose and see
their true spiritual condition before the holy God. Chapter 9 shows a leader without a party.Evangelicalism was going in one direction but MLJ was going in another. Was he right? Was his diagnosis of the problems and the biblical solutions correct? Chapter 10 almost always makes me weep. It is about the mini-revival that came upon the church and the community.

What took me many reads to see was that the converts were not little girls in Sunday School. They were the hardest and from the church’s perspective the most lost people of the community. The town drunk, the palm reader, the hard man whose hobby was bare-knuckle
fighting at fairs (while in his 50’s). The church and the world had given up on these people and they had probably given up on themselves but then they heard about the preaching going on at the church. I will stop my ringing endorsement here for time's sake.

This paperback volume is a condensation of the magisterial two volume edition (400+.pages in volume one and 700+ pages in volume two). The two volume edition is still available but this one volume is just right in size and scope for most folks. The great material from
volume one is not shortened and MLJ’s critics are answered too. I give both this paperback edition and the two volume edition my highest approval.

And by the way, why did I read this 12 times? Because as a young pastor in 1984 and following, I did not know any other men who were doing what MLJ was obviously doing and had accomplished (he had gone to be with his Lord in 1981). I read and reread and reread the book to keep me on track and clear about where I was going and where I wanted to take my church God had entrusted to me.

Steve Martin (31 years a pastor in Atlanta)
Dean of Students; IRBS Theological Seminary in Texas

Posted: 02:54:06 PM :: permalink :: discuss ::


REVIEW OF REVELATION IN THE REFORMED EXPOSITORY SERIES

06/25/2018

REVIEW OF REVELATION (Reformed Expository Series) by Richard Phillips; P & R Publications; 2017; 755 pages

Dr. Phillips is Senior Pastor of 2nd Presbyterian Church of Greenville, SC and Chairman Of the Philadelphia Conference on Reformed Theology. He is Series Editor of the Reformed Expository Series and a noted author and conference speaker.

This is a great expository commentary by a seasoned preacher/theologian on one of the most abused books of the Bible. I say abused because every crackpot speaker and author has tried his/her hand at explaining the message of this book. Many interpretations would be comical if they were not so mistreating the Bible. The imaginative foolishness of the dispensational LEFT BEHIND SERIES, aping the earlier movie, THIEF IN THE NIGHT, with its ‘any moment ’rapture prophetical stance, has left many Christians confused, others disgusted and some wanting to right off Revelation as a means of God’s revelation to mankind. As of 6-26-18, AMAZON has over 100 pages of books about Revelation. Not books about Revelation but pages of books about Revelation. Do we really need one more?

Richard Phillips is no sensationalist; he is setting no prophetic timetable. He is not basing a parachurch ministry or publishing empire upon his novel interpretation. What he is doing is using the accepted hermeneutical tools of Bible interpretation and showing the reader what and why. If the preacher or student of Revelation wants solid content and not fluff, if
they want a biblical focus married to historical and cultural insights, this is the commentary for you. Pastor Phillips does not have a ‘party spirit’ where he only reads the works of men with whom he always agrees. In the Introduction he notes that he received encouragement and delight in reading premillennial and post-millenial authors. The bibliography at the end
of the book has over 200 entries that will whet the appetite of the pastor who wants to study and teach this book.

Do you want to understand the basic outline of Revelation? Do you want to be able to turn to its pages again and again for instruction, comfort and exhortation? Then read this commentary. Read it aloud to your spouse; read it aloud to your growing children. Show them the time-tested skill of reading edifying books aloud can be a real blessing to the whole family. Read it for your personal devotions. Read it with a sandwich at lunch. It will keep you on track and edified as you do.

Here is a brief outline from the TABLE OF CONTENTS:

PART 1—CHRIST AMONG THE LAMPSTANDS (Letters to the 7 Churches of Asia Minor)

PART 2—THE THRONE OF GOD AND THE SEVEN SEALS

PART 3—THE SEVEN TRUMPETS AS WARNINGS OF JUDGMENT

PART 4—THE SYMBOLIC HISTORIES

PART 5—THE SEVEN BOWLS OF GOD’S WRATH

PART 6—THE FINAL JUDGMENT AND VICTORY AT CHRIST’S RETURN

PART 7—THE GREAT CONSUMATION AND ETERNAL GLORY

Buy this exposition, read these sermons and be encouraged to love and trust the Lamb more!

Steve Martin (31 years a pastor in Atlanta)
Dean of Students; IRBS Theological Seminary in Texas

Posted: 06:17:22 PM :: permalink :: discuss ::


REVIEW OF THE DICTIONARY OF PRESBYTERIAN AND REFORMED TRADITION IN AMERICA

REVIEW OF DICTIONARY OF THE PRESBYTERIAN & REFORMED TRADITION IN AMERICA
Edited by D. G. Hart with assistance from Mark Noll;
P & R; 2005; 286 pages

In 1999, D. G. Hart edited this volume for InterVarsity Press. It’s initial publication had its day but P & R picked it up and republished it in 2005 to lengthen its lifespan. I am glad that they did. If you want to know about Elias Boudinot (Hint: he was a Cherokee Presbyterian)
or what did J. Gresham Machen stand for or what do Presbyterians believe about the sacraments, you can find these things and thousands more in this helpful dictionary. With contributions by over 150 authorities, this will likely be the go-to volume for those wishing to know about the history of the Presbyterian and Reformed churches in the U.S.

(NOTE: Modern covenantal or Reformed Baptists who also hold to Federal Theology are not represented. But if you want to know about the good and godly Presbyterians and Dutch Reformed and German Reformed folks, this volume is indispensable.)

Steve Martin (31 years a pastor in Atlanta)
Dean of Students; IRBS Theological Seminary in Texas


Posted: 05:29:00 PM :: permalink :: discuss ::


REVIEW OF HOW TO UNDERSTAND AND APPLY THE NEW TESTAMENT

REVIEW OF HOW TO UNDERSTAND AND APPLY THE NEW TESTAMENT
(12 Steps From Exegesis to Theology);
By Andrew Naselli; P & R; 2017

Like its bookend volume, HOW TO UNDERSTAND AND APPLY THE OLD TESTAMENT, this book is a gift to the Church of Jesus Christ. Thorough and yet clear, comprehensive without being boring, this book will serve the student and pastor the rest of his life. Christians believe the Bible to be true in all that it affirms. What does it affirm? What is it saying? How does it apply today? Andy Naselli, with two doctorates, shows us the way through the wealth of the wisdom of the past and present in biblical hermeneutics.

Here are the 12 Steps From Exegesis to Theology:

1. Genre

2. Textual Criticism

3. Translation

4. Greek Grammar

5. Argument Diagram

6. Historical-Cultural Context

7. Literary Context

8. Word Studies

9. Biblical Theology

10. Historical Theology

11. Systematic Theology

12. Practical Theology

Like its bookend volume mentioned above, this is surely to become a classic for this and the next generation of Bible students.

Steve Martin (31 years a pastor in Atlanta)
Dean of Students; IRBS THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY IN TEXAS

Posted: 04:59:09 PM :: permalink :: discuss ::


REVIEW OF HOW TO UNDERSTAND AND APPLY THE OLD TESTAMENT

REVIEW OF HOW TO UNDERSTAND AND APPL.Y THE OLD TESTAMENT; (12 Steps From Exegesis to Theology) by Jason DeRouchie; P & R; 2017

All conservative Bible students believe the Bible to be the very Word of God written. What does this infallible book teach? Too often in the past, professional and amateur Bible students have agreed upon the infallibility of the text without agreeing upon what the text is actually saying. That is the realm of hermeneutics—how to interpret a book of the Bible along with the rest of the Bible. Some have argued that biblical interpretation is just a matter of the “science” of hermeneutics; others have argued that biblical understanding is more a matter of the “art” of interpretation. Still others would argue that all one needs is the Spirit and your interpretation wi.ll be just fine

Dr. DeRouchie shows us the way through the maze to properly read the Bible and come away with its meaning and application. What are his twelve steps from exegesis of the text to understanding the theology of the text? Without being boring or pedantic, DeRouchie takes us by
the hand and shows us how to read, understand and apply the Word of God .

What are the 12 steps?

PART 1: TEXT—WHAT IS THE MAKEUP OF THE PASSAGE?
1. Genre
2. Literary Units and Text Hierarchy
3. Text Criticism
4. Translation

PART 2: OBSERVATION—HOW IS THE PASSAGE COMMUNICATED ?
5. Clause and Text Grammar
6. Argument Tracing
7. Word and Concept Studies

PART 3: CONTEXT—WHERE DOES THE PASSAGE FIT ?
8. Historical Context
9. Literary Context

PART 4: MEANING—WHAT DOES THE PASSAGE MEAN ?
10. Biblical Theology
11. Systematic Theology

PART 5: APPLICATION—WHY DOES THE PASSAGE MATTER ?
12. Practical Theology
With an excellent bibliography for studying the Old Testament in general and comprehensive coverage of the details of faithful, rigorous Biblical study, this book is sure to be a standard textbook for students and faithful pastors for a generation.

Steve Martin (31 years a pastor in Atlanta)
Dean of Students, IRBS Theological Seminary in Texas

Posted: 04:31:47 PM :: permalink :: discuss ::


REVIEW OF "DEPARTING IN PEACE" (END OF LIFE DECISION MAKING)

REVIEW OF DEPARTING IN PEACE
(Biblical Decision-Making at the End of Life);
P & R; 2017

Bill Davis is a trained philosopher and professor, pastor and Christian. He knows we are all going to die. How will we die? How will our loved ones die? What decisions must we make in light of the tremendous advances in medical science and technology? Will we cause premature death? Will we unwittingly prolong the agony of dying? How can we tell? How can we
ask good questions of the doctors? Dr. Davis has put us in his debt by writing a comprehen- sive overview of dying and the kinds of decisions facing Christians in the 21st century.

CHAPTERS

1. Introduction

2. Foundational Considerations

3. End of Life Treatment Decisions: Challenges

4. Putting Biblical Principles into Practice: True Stories

5. Advance Directives

6. Money and End of Life Decisions

7. Hospital Realities: Making the Most of Them

8. Things to Do Now

Appendix A: Principles Identified, Defended and Applied

Appendix B: Sketch of the Lesson Plans for “Ask the Doctors”

Appendix C: Sketch of the Lesson Plans for “Leaving Instructions”

Glossary (of Medical and Theological Terms)

If most of us are honest, we don’t plan to die. We know in the back of our minds that we will die sometime. But under what conditions if we are incapacitated or in hospital, we don’t much think about. And we wait until the end to think about our responsibilities with our loved ones too. This book will prevent unexamined and thoughtless decisions and help the reader navigate the oft confusing waters at the end of life and spare many a heartache. Every pastor and every church library should have a copy of this book to loan out or give out.

Steve Martin (31 years a pastor in Atlanta)
Dean of Students; IRBS Theological Seminary in Texas

Posted: 03:53:13 PM :: permalink :: discuss ::


EXALTING CHRIST: ESSAYS IN HONOR OF FRED MALONE

05/03/2018

The Word of God ranks ingratitude or unthankfulness as a cardinal sin. Paul notes in Romans 1:18 that two foundational sins of fallen humanity were its failure to honor God or give thanks to Him. When the creature fails to give the Creator His due, reality is inverted and personal and cultural judgement cannot be far behind.

This book of 17 essays was written to thank God for the life and ministry of Dr. Fred Malone of First Baptist Church in Clinton, Louisiana. When the editors approached various folk to participate, they jumped at the change to thank God for His choice servant. The eager participants include the following:

PART 1: EXALTING CHRIST IN THE HOME
1. Exalting Christ by Honoring Him in the Home--
Joanna Malone Jones

PART II: EXALTING CHRIST IN THE PULPIT
2. Exalting Christ By Preaching Him From All the
Scriptures--Tom Hicks
3. Exalting Christ by Preaching Him and Him Crucified--
Michael McKelvey
4. Exalting Christ by Preaching the Law and the
Gospel--Raymond Perron
5. Exalting Christ by Exegeting His Word--Stephen
Murphy
6. Exalting Christ by Serving Him as a Steward of the
Mysteries of God--Jim Renihan
7. Exalting Christ by Seeing Him as Supreme--Tom
Nettles
8. Exalting Christ by Seeing Him as the Scope of
Scripture--Richard Barcellos

PART III: EXALTING CHRIST IN THE CHURCH
9. Exalting Christ by Shepherding the Flock--Tom Ascol
10. Exalting Christ by Preparing His Church For
Missionary Service--Allen Beardmore
11. Exalting Christ by Emphasizing the Great
Commission--Jerry Slate, Jr.
12. Exalting Christ by Teaching His Church to Pray--
Walt Chantry
13. Exalting Christ by Observing the Church's
Ordinances--Conrad Mbewe
14. Exalting Christ by Contending for the Faith--Earl
Blackburn
15. Exalting Christ by Connecting With Church History
--Joe Nesom
16. Exalting Christ by Serving the Church as an Elder--
Mitch Axom
17. Exalting Christ by Remembering That He is Risen
From the Dead--Steve Martin

A person need not know Fred Malone to profit greatly form this choice collection of essays. Seminary students, elders, pastors and laymen who are readers will profit from this volume.

And yes, all of us thank the Lord for Fred Malone, a graduate of Auburn University, Reformed Theological Seminary (Jackson), and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, author of A STRING OF PEARLS UNSTRUNG and THE BAPTISM OF DISCIPLES ALONE.

He helped to plant Heritage Baptist Church in Crowley, Texas (now located in Mansfield, Texas) and has pastored First Baptist of Clinton for over twenty years.
Now as Pastor Emeritus, he continues to preach and pastor in Clinton with his beloved wife, Debbie.

Posted: 02:05:41 PM :: permalink :: discuss ::


REVIEW OF "THEOLOGY MADE PRACTICAL"

02/05/2018

REVIEW OF THEOLOGY MADE PRACTICAL
(New Studies on John Calvin and His Legacy);
Edited by Joel Beeke, David Hall & Michael Haykin;
Reformation Heritage Books, 2017; 248 pp.

October, 2017 was the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation of the churches. That is the month when Martin Luther nailed 95 theological issues for debate to the church door in Wittenburg. It touched off a fire that is still burning today around the world. Second to Luther in age but not in importance, John Calvin built upon Luther’s initial insights and provided even greater fuel to keep the gospel light burning.

Three noted Calvin scholars have come together to provide a much needed volume for pastors and laymen and the uninitiated about Calvin and his contributions to the on-going reformation of religion. What is winsome about this volume is that the authors seek to show how Calvin’s theology was eminently practical. He was no ivory tower theologian writing for his own academic advance; he was a pastor-theologian writing for the advancement of Christ’s kingdom, the spread of the Reformation and the well-being of his own churchmen.

The book breaks down into four sections and fourteen chapters.

PART 1: CALVIN’S BIOGRAPHY
1. The Young Calvin: Preparation for a Life of Ministry—
Michael Haykin
2. Practical Lessons From the Life of Idelette Calvin—
Joel Beeke

PART 2: CALVIN’S SYSTEMATIC THEOLOGY
3. “Uttering the Praises of the Father, of the Son and of
the Spirit”: John Calvin on the Divine Trinity”—
Michael Haykin
4. Calvin on Similarities and Differences of Election and
Reprobation—Joel Beeke
5. Calvin on the Holy Spirit—Joel Beeke
6. Explicit and Implicit Appendixes to Calvin’s View of
Justification by Faith—David Hall

PART 3: CALVIN’S PASTORAL AND POLITICAL THEOLOGY
7. Calvin’s Experiential Preaching—Joel Beeke
8. “A Sacrifice Well Pleasing to God”: John Calvin and
the Missionary Endeavor of the Church—Michael
Haykin
9. Calvin on Principles of Government—David Hall
10. Calvin on Welfare: Diaconal Ministry in Geneva and
Beyond—David Hall
11. Christian Marriage in the Twenty-First Century:
Listening to Calvin on the Purpose of Marriage—
Michael Haykin

PART 4: CALVIN’S LEGACY
12. Calvin’s Circle of Friends—Propelling an Enduring
Movement—David Hall
13. Calvin as a Calvinist—Joel Beeke
14. Calvinism and Revival—Michael Haykin

It does not seem to this reviewer that this volume breaks new ground in Calvin studies. But it does provide clear windows into well-documented and therefore accurate understandings of Calvin and this is tremendously important to those unfamiliar to the times, the man and his teachings. Old canards like “Calvinism is intrinsically opposed to evangelism and missions”, or “Calvin was a cold, hard logician of hard doctrines” cannot stand under the clear light of the truth about the man.

If I was still a pastor, I would use this book with men of the church, to show them the rich resources available in John Calvin’s works and how much the best of the Reformation heritage is owed to him. As a Dean of Students, I will be recommending this volume to my students. As a reviewer, I heartily commend this book to pastors.

Steve Martin
DEAN OF STUDENTS
IRBS THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY; TEXAS

Posted: 03:11:23 PM :: permalink :: discuss ::


REVIEW OF COUNSEL FOR GOSPEL MINISTERS by John Brown

REVIEW OF COUNSEL TO GOSPEL MINISTERS
(John Brown of Haddington)
[Letters on Preaching, Exemplary Behavior and the Pastoral Call]; Reformation Heritage Books; 2017; 121 pp

Few ministers in 18th century Scotland were more used and more prolific than John Brown of Haddington (not to be confused with another much used pastor-theologian of the same name, John Brown of Wamphray). Though dead for almost 225 years, his works are still being republished and still minister to the spiritually minded. As a Dean of Students at a seminary, this reviewer plans to use COUNSEL TO GOSPEL MINISTERS with my seminary students.

Why use Brown today? He ministered well and finished well—a truly good example of a faithful and godly minister. He shows what a man can do who was born poor, had poor health as a child and almost died twice, was orphaned at thirteen, became a traveling peddler to support himself, then a soldier, then a peddler again. Finally becoming a teacher, he taught himself ten ancient and modern languages to help his study of the Greek and Hebrew Bible. His thirst for truth seemed unquenchable and he was a lifelong learner. Brown was orthodox and experiential—he knew the historic faith and knew what it meant to experience the faith. His favorite theologians to read and study were Pictet, Van Mastricht, Owen, Boston, Hervey and the Erskine brothers. Coupled with his assiduous study was a marked life of prayer. (He was a great example of what modern theologian David Wells in a biographical sketch of the life and impact of Charles Hodge: ‘He was a great example of a kneeling theologian, not a sitting theologian.”) His physical and spiritual sons made a great impact for godliness and the cause of the gospel in Scotland. Upon his deathbed his final words were: “My Christ”. God used John Brown as a pastor and as a theologian and as a trainer of pastors and if we are wise, we can learn from him and follow in his footsteps.

What does this small but powerful paperback contain?

CONTENTS:

Biographical Introduction—Joel Beeke and Randall Pederson (a really useful biographical introduction and accounts of his best books)

PART ONE: LETTERS ON GOSPEL PREACHING (six letters on how not to preach and how to preach the gospel)

PART TWO: LETTERS ON THE EXMPLARY BEHAVIOR OF MINISTERS (ten letters of how ministers should conduct themselves if they seek to honor Christ and not create a stumbling block for the gospel)

PART THREE: ADDRESS TO STUDENTS OF DIVINITY (covers such essentials of ministry as:
1. Make sure you are truly converted
2. Work hard to improve yourself and your gifts
3. Make sure you are truly called of God to the gospel ministry
4. Examine your motives to make sure you are doing all this for Christ and not yourself
and some hidden motives
5. Grasp the profound nature of your calling and attend to it with all seriousness
6. Look unto yourself and you’re heart
7. Look unto your doctrine--See to it that you not be a ministered who is ashamed because you did not handle the Word of truth accurately.
8. It is required of a steward that he be found faithful to his stewardship—make sure you are faithful to the end.

I wish I had read this early in my ministry. I labored for ten years in student ministry and thirty-one years as a gospel minister. I am now a Dean of Students. I am becoming an old man. But this book is still good for my soul, good for my remaining ministry and good to students I shall assign to read it. Read it yourself and see!

Steve Martin
DEAN OF STUDENT
IRBS THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY; TEXAS

Posted: 03:00:43 PM :: permalink :: discuss ::


REVIEW OF GOD'S AMBASSADORS by Chad Van Dixhoorn

REVIEW OF
CHAD VAN DIXHOORN, GOD’S AMBASSADORS
(THE WESTMINSTER ASSEMBLY AND THE REFORMATION
OF THE ENGLISH PULPIT, 1643-1653)
Studies in the Westminster Assembly Series];
Reformation Heritage Books; 2017; 209 pp.

Dr. Chad Van Dixhoorn is a world-class authority on the Westminster Confession of Faith, its cultural milieu, its participants, their ideas and concerns and goals. What is not always evident is that the Confession was not written as an end in itself. The commissioners were concerned that the right doctrine order the church AND be preached from the pulpits. The English Reformation, being mixed with politics, was imposed upon the churches and many so-called ministers were gospel ignorant at best, gospel opposed at worst. The Commissioners to Westminster were concerned that a steady supply of godly ministers, steeped in the truth and well able to preach it be given to the churches. Van Dixhoorn’s study illuminates how all this came about.

This accessible volume, undergirded by vast research, is a pleasure to read and a pleasure to commend. None other than Reformed stalwart Sinclair Ferguson writes a memorable forward as to how good and useful this book truly is and why. The book sets up as follows:

PART I: BLIND GUIDES AND SCANDALOUS MINISTERS
1. The Call For Reform
2. The Road For Reform
3. “Democratick Anarchie”

PART II: A REFORMING ASSEMBLY
4. Purifying Pulpits: Assembly Examinations
5. The Pastor’s Office: Assembly Debates
6. Ordaining Preachers: The Directory For Ordination
7. Directions for Preaching: The Directory For Public Worship

PART III: IN THEORY
8. On Preachers: Godly, Trained and Ordained
9. On Preaching: The Word of God as the Ordinary Means of Grace
10. On Preaching: Audible and Visible Words
11. On Preaching: Christ-centered Sermons
12. On Preaching: Christ-centered Exegesis
13. On Study and Style: “The Spirit’s Working”
14. Conclusions

EPILOGUE

APPENDIX 1: THE DUTIES OF MINISTERS
APPENDIX 2: THE DIRECTORY FOR ORDINATION
APPENDIX 3: THE SUB-DIRECTORY FOR PREACHING

This volume, along with two other recently published titles (COUNSEL FOR GOSPEL MINISTERS and THEOLOGY MADE PRACTICAL) from REFORMATION HERITAGE BOOKS, would truly help churches and denominations today if they were digested and employed.

Blind guides and scandalous ministers were not in the sole possession of the 17th century churches. One has to only read denominational news, watch religious television or examine the popular titles at the local Christian bookstore to see modern examples of the same. “Democratic anarchie” sounds like “every man did what was right in his own eyes” and aptly describes modern evangelicalism.

One pundit observed: “Philosophers merely interpret the world; the problem is to change it”. Besides chronicling the miserable condition of the post-Reformation churches and their ministers, Van DixHoorn shows how the Westminster Divines developed a strategy to fix the situation. One can argue that it was not a perfect solution. But how many human solutions are? But God has seen fit to uses the dictates of the Assembly at Westminster to organize and strengthen Presbyterian churches like few others.

Commenting on the acid corrosion of modern intellectual life on church health, my church history mentor opined that Reformed churches with confessions of faith were the last denominations to go liberal. They had substance and structure. They were not ‘evangellyfish” but true vertebrates—they had a backbone and a skeleton. I thank God for Chad Van Dixhoorn’s volume. It will help me as I work with future and existing ministers.

Steve Martin
DEAN OF STUDENTS
IRBS THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY; TEXAS

Posted: 02:56:23 PM :: permalink :: discuss ::


REVIEW OF JAMES DOLEZAL, ALL THAT IS IN GOD; Reformation Heritage

02/03/2018

REVIEW OF JAMES E. DOLEZAL, ALL THAT IS IN GOD
(Evangelical Theology and the Challenge of Classical Theism);
Reformation Heritage Books; 2017

In the past three years the evangelical and Reformed churches have become roiled in a controversy about the very nature of God. If it is true that Who God is determines the nature of everything and our grounding in reality, then much is at stake in the present controversy. The controversy includes revision of the classical or historically orthodox understanding of God’s essence (Does He change? Is He immutable? Is He impassible, and what does that mean? Is He a simple or complex Being? Does it matter?)

Evangelical and Reformed theologian and former pastor James Dolezal has written a tour de force analysis of the problems, the players and the outcomes of changing our doctrine of God. Where did the problems come from? Just as many other times in history, contemporary theologians have wanted to marry Christianity with the spirit of the age. Is modern culture hung up with consternation about relationships? Do you have to be hurt to listen to and care about my hurts? Do you have to be vulnerable in order to authentic? Modern man thinks so. Modern evangelicals then begin to tinker with the doctrine of God to make Him more accessible, more relatable, more sensitive, more compassionate, more easy to get along with and to know. And God is remade in the image of man.

Professor Dolezal describes the weak, contemporary teaching in contrast to the strong, classical teaching and names those who have departed from classical orthodoxy. What is sad to this reviewer is the overweening concern that men might be offended for being called out while these same “sensitive” souls do not show the same concern for God being offended. Play with His holy nature, distort His being, scramble men’s thoughts about God—no problem. But name someone who has left the straight line and gone off on an unorthodox trajectory and outrage is the result. O that we weak, foolish men would be more concerned about God and His glory than man and his glory!

Here is the layout of Dr. Dolezal’s work:

CHPT. 1—MODELS OF THEISM (he contrasts the classical view
of God with the “mutualist” view of God presented by
the modern revisionists.

CHPT. 2—UNCHANGING GOD (he shows that God cannot change
or He is not God.)

CHPT. 3—SIMPLE GOD (If God is made up of parts, then something and someone else
must be added to Him to make Him God.)

CHPT. 4—SIMPLE GOD LOST (how the modern change has come
about)

CHPT. 5—ETERNAL CREATOR (Dolezal shows how the eternality
of God mitigates against modern revisions of God.)

CHPT. 6—ONE GOD, THREE PERSONS (A strong chapter on the
revealed mystery of the Trinity and how recent
revisionist theology distorts the Trinity.)

CHPT. 7—CONCLUSION—(a review and a call back to classic
Trinitarianism.)

I have known pastors too lazy to study the profound issues wrestled with in this study. Does God change? Is He immutable and impassible? Does God know in exactly the same way we know? What changes if we change the Trinity? If you are a pastor or Christian teacher, your calling is to study and exposit the Word of God as understood and clarified by 2000 years of God’s teachers. Are you willing to get help from the giants of the past or is your mind the measure? Sadly I have known men who would not study these profound issues, too comfortable to think hard about truth, too concerned with what men think and not what Almighty God thinks. They have dumped the historic, classic orthodoxy about God. They have men’s approval. I hope that passes muster on Judgment Day.

Steve Martin
Dean of Students
IRBS Theological Seminary; Texas


Posted: 06:28:21 PM :: permalink :: discuss ::


REVIEW OF Stephen Nichols, BEYOND THE 95 THESES (Martin Luther's Life, Thought and Lasting Legacy)

REVIEW OF STEPHEN NICHOLS’ BEYOND THE 95 THESES
(Martin Luther’s Life, Thought, and Lasting Legacy); P & R; 2016

October, 2017 was the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Protestant Reformation. Who was Martin Luther? What was he protesting? What was being reformed and why? Why was it so important that a German Catholic monk nailed 95 subjects for academic disputation to a cathedral door? Reformation College President and theologian Stephen Nichols enables busy laymen and busy pastors to grasp and appreciate Luther and the Reformation by combining historical accuracy, theological precision and the ability to communicate an infectious enthusiasm for the material. Martin Luther comes alive and a sleepy pastor or churchman who wonders what all the Reformation fuss was about, may well come awake and rejoice and give His God renewed glory!

This volume combines two volumes, published separately and written in 2002—MARTIN LUTHER:A GUIDED TOUR OF HIS LIFE AND THOUGHT and MARTIN LUTHER’S 95 THESES. I read them when they first came out and so much appreciated Nichol’s work and now I can commend the combined material to those who want to “get it” today. For Nichols is great at helping the reader to “get it”.

Let me show you how Nichols breaks up the material to teach the reader.

PART ONE: LUTHER, A LIFE
1. The Early Years
2. The Later Years

PART TWO: LUTHER, THE REFORMER
3. The Meat of the Nut: Understanding Luther’s Theology
4. Silent No More: The Three Treatises
5. The Centerpiece of the Reformation: The Bondage of the Will
6. This is My Body: Confession Concerning Christ’s Supper
7. Plagues, Princes and Peasants: Ethical Writings

PART THREE: LUTHER, THE PASTOR
8. The Next Generation: The Small Catechism
9. Dinner With Luther: “Table Talk”
10. A New Song Begun: The Hymns
11. The Marks of a True Church: On the Councils and the Church
12. The Reluctant Pastor: The Sermons

PART FOUR: LUTHER’S NINETY-FIVE THESES
13. The Annotated 95 Theses: Disputation on the Power and Efficacy of
Indulgences

A BRIEF GUIDE TO BOOKS BY AND ABOUT MARTIN LUTHER

As a convinced Bible and Confession based Protestant, I celebrated the history and theology of the Protestant Reformation
at the end of each October for the 31 years I pastored. The contents of BEYOND THE 95 THESES fed me and nourished me and helped me to teach and nourish others. I commend it too you heartily.

Steve Martin
Dean of Studentss
IRBS Theological Seminary, Texas

Posted: 05:29:05 PM :: permalink :: discuss ::